HED:Calling culture to repentance and faith
By John Armistead
The Rev. Tony Evans, nationally known pastor and Bible teacher, will speak Jan. 11-12 at the Tupelo Coliseum at 7 p.m. each night.
Evans is co-founder and senior pastor of the 4,000-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and founder and president of Urban Alternative, a national organization seeking to bring about spiritual renewal in large cities.
He is also host of “The Alternative,” a program broadcast daily on 250 radio stations throughout the United States and in over 40 countries worldwide.
Evans was interviewed via telephone from his office in Dallas this week.
Q: What is your aim in preaching?
A: I want to let the Scripture bring judgment on our motives, our actions, certainly the problem of racism, culturalism, negative reality. The Scripture must sit in judgment over all that, but it also offers hope for the sinner, it offers hope for the broken life, the broken marriage, and so we want to always end on the hope that God gives because that’s his whole reason for becoming man – to take us out of the quagmire that we’re in and to bring us to a relationship with himself.
Q: The top leaders of the two organizations sponsoring your appearance in Tupelo, Promise Keepers and American Family Radio, are white, and many white people are coming to hear you preach. Why would you say that it is important for the African American community to attend as well?
A: My message is that we can be all that we have been called to be in Christ without losing the uniqueness of our identity. What we need to do is recognize the glory of the distinctiveness that God has given us and that as African Americans we have a history that is magnificent. The historical black church is the greatest illustration of biblical Christianity in the history of the American culture. We not only have something to receive, we have something to offer, particularly in how the gospel relates to the whole person.
On the other hand I must quickly say that the body of Christ is bigger than us, and we have to recognize that and find the things we hold in unison in Christ and let them be the standard by which we judge not only our walk with God but how we relate to people who are different than we are.
Q: In terms of racial relationships and reconciliation, is our society making headway or not?
A: The problem in racial reconciliation is that too much of the discussion has been a desire to make it happen from the top down. In the Bible, relationships emerged from the bottom up and that is how it must come, because there has been a change of world view. Because we have the wrong world view about race, we’re trying to fix the problem that cannot be fixed the way we’re trying to fix it.
What we’ve got to do is enclose this building that we’ve been constructing in American culture and re-create the proper biblical definition of the body of Christ. When you re-create that, then you allow people the freedom of their differences. At the same time, because you are now operating on truth and no longer culture, no longer race, you no longer can sit in judgment over others.
Q: Some feel racial reconciliation must be reflected in totally integrated churches, but other people, both whites and blacks, feel threatened by this concept. Would you comment on this?
A: That concern exists because of a false view of race. According to the Bible, people should be able to worship wherever there is the spirit of truth because that means that God worships there, too, according to John 4. Therefore, I should feel free to go anywhere and feel totally accepted based on my profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, whether all of one race seeks to go there or parts of difference races seek to go to that church is the choice of the person. Our problem has been that what we have done is constructed churches that have not been open to receiving people based on their character but on the color of their skin.
So to ask about integrated or non-integrated is to ask the wrong question. The question is: are we being the body of Christ, are we ministering to the people that God has sent us effectively and are people? Because of our style of preaching or style of singing, people may come or not come. It becomes their choice. It does not become our choice with regard to excluding or including them.
Q: One of the issues you’ve been asked to address in Tupelo is the idea of the family. How will you approach that?
A: First of all, the family is the foundational institution of society. The failure to recognize that has us in a spin we can’t get out of. What we’ve got to do is re-establish biblical Christianity in the home. That means men have got to come back home and take their rightful responsibility as godly leaders in their homes. Our ladies are going to have to place as a priority the well-being of the home over and above developing a career.
This gets complicated because you have single-parent families, you have people who bring with them into their families a lot of bad history, and so there must be a remaking, a reshaping of the family, and that’s where the church comes in.
The church’s job is to bring back a divine paradigm of family because many people entering families don’t have an idea of what family is all about. What we are going to try to do is recast a biblical foundation for the family.
Q: Any final word to the people of Northeast Mississippi?
A: I would like to say that as we come to the 21st century we come on the brink of the greatest disaster of all times or the greatest opportunity of all times, and we’ll have a lot to say about which way that goes. To the degree that God is recast as head of our individual family and church lives is to the degree that we will see a better America and a better city and state where we live.
To the degree that he is marginalized and good for Sunday morning only is to the degree that we will miss the opportunity of a lifetime to call our culture to repentance and faith, and therefore restoration by God.